Making it clear that its final objective is a gradual phase-out of diesel taxis, the Supreme Court on Tuesday tweaked its April 30 blanket ban to allow diesel-run All India Travel Permit taxis to operate till the expiry of their permits.

The ban on diesel taxis that had not converted to CNG from May 1 had led to widespread protests, forcing the Delhi government and the Centre to urgently approach the Supreme Court for modification of its April 30 order.

The Centre argued that the ban on diesel cabs with All India Travel Permits (AITP) would cripple the burgeoning BPO businesses, located mostly outside Delhi, in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Gurgaon.

BPOs contract AITP operators to conduct point-to-point ferrying of thousands of employees from Delhi to Gurgaon, which is in neighbouring Haryana.

However, the ban — both on diesel taxis and diesel vehicles over 2,000cc engine capacity — had left many BPOs and taxi operators in dire straits.

“You must understand what we are trying to do here... There has to be a gradual phase-out. Using AITP vehicles to ferry BPO staffers is abusing the law. These are not genuine AITP operators and are used only by BPOs,” Chief Justice TS Thakur said.

The Bench then directed the Delhi government to allow city taxis having valid permits under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, to extend their area of operation from the confines of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi to all NCR regions, including Gurgaon, to make up for the lack of vehicles caused by the ban on diesel vehicles with over 2,000cc engine capacity.

This is subject to the condition that city taxi operators get their permits countersigned by the competent authority in charge of the NCR they propose to operate in. Incidentally, most of the 24,000 city taxis are either petrol-run or have long since shifted to eco-friendly CNG.

Registration of taxis The court ordered that registration of city taxis is permissive only if these vehicles run on dual fuel (petrol+CNG) or petrol or CNG. No diesel city taxi will be permitted, the Bench clarified. As for AITP taxis, they will be permitted to continue their point-to-point intra NCT-NCR operations till their permits expire, provided the operators follow the rules of passenger safety, security and fare issued by the competent authorities.

This means that AITP operators will have to place on record for prior clearance all relevant details, including drivers’ licences and vehicle insurance details.

New AITP permits will not authorise such point-to-point pick-up and drop operations within the NCR.

“The authority issuing AITP permits shall insist on an undertaking from the AITP permit applicant that he shall not use the taxi for point-to-point service within NCR,” Chief Justice Thakur ordered.

The court urged the government to frame a suitable law in this regard.